09/29/2016 3:06PM

Beholder seeks to snap mini-slump in Zenyatta Stakes

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Beholder will try to win the Grade 1 Zenyatta for the fourth time.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Beholder’s career numbers are impressive.

She has won 13 of 14 at Santa Anita, including the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes three straight years. She has won 17 of 24 overall, including 10 Grade 1 races, earned nearly $5 million, and will go down in history as one of California’s greatest female racehorses.

Another Beholder number, however, is uncharacteristic. When she faces Stellar Wind and Tara’s Tango on Saturday at Santa Anita, Beholder is trying to end the longest losing streak of her career – all of two races.

At Del Mar this summer, Beholder finished second to Stellar Wind in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes and second to California Chrome in the Pacific Classic.

“She ran into two very good horses,” trainer Richard Mandella said. “I might have contributed to her getting beat the first time, might have been easy on her.”

As for Beholder’s second loss, no excuse required. No one beats California Chrome.

California Chrome runs in race 7 on Saturday at Santa Anita. Beholder tackles Stellar Wind and Tara’s Tango in race 9, the 1 1/16-mile Zenyatta, a Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 4 at Santa Anita.

Tara’s Tango was an unexpected addition, but the Zenyatta was always the target for Stellar Wind, trying for her second upset over Beholder.

“The last one, I said whatever happens, it’s going to be a hell of a race,” said Stellar Wind’s trainer, John Sadler. “And this one, it’s going to be very similar. They’re very close.”

Stellar Wind was making her second start of the season July 30, when she defeated Beholder by a half-length while carrying two pounds fewer (121-123). Both carry 125 in the Zenyatta.

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The race, Sadler said, “will come down to two or three intangibles. Who draws where? Is there any speed to push Beholder?”

Stellar Wind got lucky on both accounts. She drew post 5 in the five-runner field, while Beholder is in post 2. And yes, there is speed to push Beholder. Vale Dori, a presser, is drawn directly to her outside. Tara’s Tango also has speed from post 4.

Although Beholder is versatile, jockey Gary Stevens faces a dilemma – roll to the lead even though her best efforts have been from off the pace, or somehow get to the outside of her two pace rivals.

One of those is the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Tara’s Tango, initially ticketed to the Spinster on Oct. 9 at Keeneland.

“We would love to win the Spinster, but the year-end goal is to be in a Breeders’ Cup race,” Hollendorfer said. “We thought it would be easier to prepare here and then decide what Breeders’ Cup race we want to go in.”

Tara’s Tango is a Grade 1 route winner and Grade 3 sprint winner. A decision regarding the BC Distaff or Filly and Mare Sprint will be made after Saturday.

“That’s going to be up to [owner] Barbara Banke,” Hollendorfer said. “But I would say she would go for the Sprint.”

Banke’s Stonestreet Stables also owns the East Coast-based Distaff candidate Cavorting.

Zenyatta, Race 7

KEY CONTENDERS

Beholder, by Henny Hughes

Last 3 Beyers: 106-101-101

◗ B. Wayne Hughes owns Beholder, who won the 2015 Pacific Classic over males and was targeting the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland until she got sick. Her 2016 fall campaign is with fillies and mares.

“We were a very clear second, no excuses, in the Pacific Classic. We didn’t run quite that good a race this year [compared with 2015],” Mandella said. “Nothing wrong with the Distaff. I don’t know that we’re picking an easy spot.”

Stellar Wind, by Curlin

Last 3 Beyers: 102-99-98

◗ Her abbreviated two-start campaign this year was by design. Stellar Wind finished second to Beholder in the Vanity Mile in June at Santa Anita and upset Beholder next out.

“My filly is really good this year,” Sadler said. “I thought her 4-year-old campaign would be better, which it has. We want to run well [Saturday], which I’m very confident we will, and go on to the next one.”

◗ Victor Espinoza rides Stellar Wind, who has won 6 of 10. Plans call for Stellar Wind to remain in training as a 5-year-old in 2017.

Tara’s Tango, by Unbridled’s Song

Last 3 Beyers: 90-94-96

◗ She won the Santa Margarita in March at Santa Anita, finished third in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn, and then was off four months prior to winning the Rancho Bernardo, a sprint, in August.

◗ Martin Garcia rides Tara’s Tango.

– additional reporting by Jay Privman